Sebastiaen Bonnecroy

Still Life with a Skull

Still Life with a Skull
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Author: Sebastiaen Bonnecroy
Still Life, Painting, Oil on canvas, 111x88 cm
Origin: Flanders, 1668

This composition brings together two different types of still life: trompe l'oeil and vanitas . The artist used the trompe l'oeil technique to present the attributes of his workshop: in the centre of the composition there is a canvas on its stretcher depicting a still life; to the left of this, hanging on a nail, there is a palette with paints, above which we see a miniature oval portrait of a man in armour. Running across the lower part of the stretcher is a maulstick. In the lower part of the picture, a small jar of lacquer is hanging, and just below it there is a metal box with brushes and a knife.

The centre of the composition is given over to the theme of vanitas, which dominates the intellectual content of the Still Life with a Skull. The Biblical notion of the vanity and brevity of earthly life and pleasures finds embodiment here in the depiction of a skull, a soap bubble, an hourglass, smoke , a large seashell and a hunter's horn. The same idea is also to be found in the scene illustrating an episode from the Metamorphoses by Ovid, The Death of the Children of Niobe, which is depicted in the lower portion of the canvas. The ivy which winds around the skull symbolically embodies the idea of eternal life, which awaits man after his resurrection in another world. The painting was influenced by a very similar composition by Cornelis Huybrechts .

Source of entry: Leningrad State Purchasing Commission, 1939

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